NYC Temporarily Halts Relocating Homeless Families To Newark
New York City has agreed to pause relocating homeless New Yorkers to Newark, days after the New Jersey city sued over the program. The cities came to the “agreement reached between the cities in federal court on Monday,” according to NJ.com.
The program, Special One Time Assistance Program (SOTA), which pays a full year’s rent upfront to landlords outside of NYC, was recently criticized by NYC‘s Department of Investigations for failing to ensure that participants live in safe housing. Investigators found families living in apartments that were unheated and infested with vermin and rodents, with issues especially exacerbated by unscrupulous landlords who take the year’s rent and ignore tenants’ needs.
WNYC/Gothamist first reported the substandard conditions in 2018.
Since SOTA began in 2017, at least 5,000 homeless families have reportedly been relocated—with more than 2,000 families to New Jersey, and half of those to Newark. NJ.com reports, “As part of the agreement, NYC will also disclose to Newark where families are currently located in the city to allow both agencies to conduct inspections.”
“In the spirit of productive conversations and with the goal of moving toward an improved program, we will be temporarily pausing placements in Newark,” mayoral spokesperson Freddi Goldstein said. She noted that Newark had withdrawn the temporary restraining order. “
“We will resume discussions on Thursday”—the next court date—”and if a satisfactory agreement is not met, we will file a formal challenge to the ordinance the next day,” Goldstein said.
Gary Lipshutz, an attorney with Newark, told NJ.com, “The idea is to take care of the people immediately, that is our goal. We haven’t settled anything. What we tried to do is collaborate with New York City to come to an agreement while the lawsuit continues that allows us to take care of the urgent issues.”
Other NJ cities had objected to the program, and Elizabeth apparently is poised to join Newark’s suit.
“In the end, this is about the dignity of the homeless,” Newark Mayor Ras Baraka said prior to the agreement. “We want to make sure they are not taken advantage of by unscrupulous landlords. We want to make sure we can provide them the necessary social and educational services. But we can’t do that if New York does not share information on who and where they are, which is not only disrespectful to our local laws but the people they are claiming to help.”